Black lawyers seek police info

Targets 25 cities for misconduct data

Cynthia E. Griffin | 9/4/2014, midnight

Los Angeles is one of 25 cities that the National Bar Association (NBA) has announced it will send open records requests in an effort to end the nationwide police misconduct and brutality cases that result in the deaths of unarmed individuals.

The NBA began filing the request on Sept. 1 in the top 25 cities that it identified as having an alleged history of police misconduct and brutality cases. The open records requests will seek information regarding the number of people who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while being pursued or in police custody.

Additionally, the NBA will also send a “preservation of evidence” notice to all of the necessary entities requesting that they preserve all police officers’ raw notes of statements, observations and data collected from the scene of an incident. The request will also require information on the officer specifically involved and all responding officers; the officers’ detail logs from the crime scene along with video and photographic evidence related to any alleged and/or proven misconduct by current or former employees.

The legal body will release its findings to the public, submit copies to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and will demand that the DOJ launch a full investigation as well as request federal oversight of the cities that have been identified with problems.

According to NBA President Pamela J. Meanes, Los Angeles and the other 24 cities were selected based on their history and patterns of police abuse as well as the presence of a large African American community.

The group, which is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African American attorneys and judges, is seeking multiple years of data.

Los Angeles, was included on the list due to the fact that the LAPD was previously part of a federal consent degree and the recent killing of Ezell Ford.

“We know the only way to really attack (this issue) is to bring in the power of the federal attorney general,” explained Meanes, noting that Attorney General Eric Holder and his agency have the power to come in and seize control of police departments and institute retraining procedures.

In addition to seeking federal intervention, Meanes said the NBA also wants to push for federal legislation that will begin to address some of the pertinent issues. This includes defining what is excessive force and when, where and under what circumstances it can be used; equipping local law enforcement officials with federally-funded body cams; and realizing that a good percentage of police misconduct occurs during traffic stops, the organization is also seeking legislation that will reduce the number of police stops in African American community.

The other cities targeted include Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; San Jose, Calif.; District of Columbia; Miami, Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; Louisville, Ky.; Baltimore, Md.; Detroit, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas, Nev.; New York, N.Y.; Cleveland, Ohio; Memphis Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Milwaukee, Wis.; along with Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas.

In conjunction with this, the NBA is seeking information on the number of stops of African Americans and continuously monitoring cities that evidence a high number of these.

Concurrently with its information collection efforts and legislative push, the NBA and its affiliates and chapters around the country are holding various seminars educating young people and others about their rights. This includes providing participants with a constitutional rights card, and the need to document stops via cell phone video.

Having a video can be critical, said Meanes, who noted the case of 30-year-old New Jersey resident Marcus Jeter, stopped by police in 2012. He was caught on the dash cam of one police car with his hands held up high, even as an officer was heard yelling at him to stop reaching for his gun, stop trying to resist arrest. This evidence led to the charges being dropped and the discipline of the involved officers.

The “know your rights” seminars will be held in September in Los Angeles. Similar events will be held in New York Sept. 10, Sept. 19 in North Carolina, and Sept. 20 and 30 in Oakland.